Volume #21 - 193.|
NORTH ATLANTIC TREATY ORGANIZATION
ALTERATIONS IN NATIONAL FORCE CONTRIBUTIONS
Memorandum from Head, Defence Liaison (1) Division,|
to Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs
June 16th, 1955|
TRANSFER OF FRENCH FORCES TO NORTH AFRICA|
The recent action of the French Government in withdrawing a French division from SACEUR for service in Algeria raises again the important issue of what obligations NATO countries assume when they assign, or earmark for assignment, to NATO certain military forces. For a long time these obligations remained vague and undefined, but during the past year efforts have been made to clarify them. The first of these efforts was during the negotiations preceding the London and Paris Agreements of last October. At that time it was feared that, if NATO countries were not specifically precluded from deploying forces they had assigned to SACEUR in Europe, except with the express permission of the NATO military authorities, a rearmed Germany might use her forces along the eastern frontier in a way prejudicial to peace. It was in everybody's mind that the Italian Government had previously, at the time of one of the Trieste crises, moved to the Yugoslav frontier two armoured divisions which were nominally under NATO command without consulting the NATO military authorities at all. It was not desired to repeat this experience with German forces.
2. After considerable discussion at the Nine-Power Conference, the following formula was finally adopted and incorporated in the NATO Council resolution of October 22 on SACEUR's revised terms of reference:
"The North Atlantic Council agrees, in the interest of most effective collective defence, that ... forces under the Supreme Allied Commander Europe and within the area of Allied Command Europe shall not be redeployed or used operationally within that area without the consent of the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, subject to political guidance furnished by the North Atlantic Council, when appropriate, through normal channels."62
3. In combination with the Council's decision that all forces of member nations stationed in the area of Allied Command Europe should (with certain exceptions) be placed under the authority of SACEUR and under the direction of the NATO military authorities, this formula ensures that no German forces (except limited forces for internal security) could be moved without the consent of SACEUR. It did not have this effect with respect to French forces, however, since forces intended for the defence of overseas territories were, in addition to forces for internal security, explicitly excluded from the rule that all forces should be placed under SACEUR's authority. Thus, in the case of France (and other NATO countries in Europe with overseas territories) the above-mentioned provisions of the Paris Agreements placed a restriction only on the movement within the area of Allied Command Europe of forces which continued to be assigned to SACEUR. They could not prevent France, for example, withdrawing her own forces from SACEUR's command and placing them under national command, or retaining under national command forces which had been raised for assignment to SACEUR, or moving forces assigned to SACEUR from a location inside the area of Allied Command Europe to a location outside that area.
4. In this latter connection it should be noted that the area of Allied Command Europe, although not so far fully defined, was agreed during the London and Paris Conferences to exclude all French North Africa and Portugal.
5. The second of these efforts to clarify member countries' NATO obligations has been concerned with the separate question of the right to withdraw forces actually assigned to NATO, or to alter established force contributions to NATO, and with the procedures for doing so. During the past year there has been an increasing tendency on the part of certain member countries to make changes in their force contributions to NATO, both current and future, by unilateral decision and action and to present NATO with the accomplished fact. Last summer, for example, in the middle of the NATO Annual Review, which is designed of course to examine member countries' defence plans, the Belgian Government decided to reduce drastically the air forces she had previously undertaken to raise for NATO and refused to reconsider this decision. The Danish Government also reduced its defence estimates at about the same time without any prior consultation with NATO, but later agreed during the Annual Review to reconsider them. The latest French action is but another in a series of unilateral decisions by the French Government which have progressively reduced the size and effectiveness of the French commitment to SACEUR.
6. The obligations involved in these cases of force reduction are those undertaken when member countries adopt each year, at the end of the Annual Review process, firm force goals for the next year. The NATO forces are organized on the assumption that certain national components will be contributed and maintained by various member countries. These contributions are established in the force goals, which provide the Supreme Commanders with a statement of what they can count on in drawing up NATO defence plans. These contributions can be, and often are, modified in the course of the Annual Review each year. But the goals for the immediately following year, once they are adopted, are regarded as firm commitments until they are reviewed during the next Annual Review. It can therefore be justifiably argued that member countries have at least a moral obligation not to make marked changes to their contributions except through the Annual Review process, or in a manner which will provide for prior consultation with the NATO military authorities and the Council. Otherwise the whole basis of NATO defence planning would be jeopardized if national components could be withdrawn from the NATO forces, reduced or moved at will at any time by the countries concerned.
7. It was with such considerations in mind that the Standing Group, at the suggestion of the Secretary-General, formulated a procedure for NATO countries to follow in reporting alterations in their established force contributions to NATO. According to this procedure a member country would inform the North Atlantic Council, the Standing Group and the Allied Commander concerned, whenever it intended to reduce the number or strength of units assigned to or earmarked for NATO commands, to change the location of such units or to change their availability date. The North Atlantic Council, with the military advice of the Standing Group, would then consider whether any proposals or recommendations should be made to that country. This procedure has so far been approved by the Military Representatives Committee and has been submitted to the Council, which is scheduled to consider it shortly. As you know, this Department was consulted when the proposed procedure was before the Military Representatives Committee and on instructions from the Minister we expressed general agreement with it.
8. It is clear that the French Government's action in moving a division to Algeria, and in announcing this decision to the press before any consultation with NATO could be held, is not in accord with the procedure proposed by the Secretary-General which, although not finally adopted by the Council, had at least been approved by the Standing Group and the Military Representatives Committee, including presumably the French representatives on these bodies. Such action seems to be in conflict with the principle of collective partnership on which the present NATO military structure rests, and if this precedent is followed it may well necessitate reconsideration of the whole basis of national contributions.
9. The point at issue is not whether the French action was justified, in terms of the threat to the security of Algeria, a part of the NATO area, but whether the French Government should take upon itself alone to assess that threat in relation to the threat to other parts of the NATO area and to take measures affecting the security of the NATO area as a whole without adequate consultation with its allies. If the NATO forces in Europe were nothing more than a collection of national forces under national direction, the situation would be entirely different; but in creating an integrated force under SACEUR, and in financing in common the infrastructure facilities required by these forces and their unified headquarters, the NATO countries have implicitly accepted the principle of collective action and responsibility in defence matters. Unless this principle is respected the system of integrated forces will not work.
10. There seems to be little the Council can do in the present instance, except to withhold any approval, explicit or implied, of the French action. But consideration of the proposed Standing Group procedure referred to above would provide a good opportunity for members of the Council to emphasize the importance of the principle of consultation which it embodies and to sound a warning that this principle must be respected both in the spirit and in the letter if the strength of NATO is to be maintained.
11. The Permanent Representatives will be discussing the French action on June 22 and Mr. Wilgress has asked for our comments. If you agree I will prepare for your signature a telegram incorporating the views outlined in paragraphs 8, 9 and 10 above.